UPDATE - Leader of the Highway Re Route Movement (HRM) Dr Wayne Kublalsingh and a delegation met today with President Anthony Carmona.
The meeting, held at President's House, St Anns, Port of Spain, last for close to two hours.
After emerging from the meeting, Kublalsingh told members of the media that President Carmona was extremely gracious and welcoming, and showed the three member delegation a lot of respect, in contrast to the way the group has been treated by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.
Kublalsingh said the President said he wanted to read the Highway Review Committee's report in its entirely and will meet with the HRM again in September. Kublalsingh said Carmona acknowledged that he did not have executive powers, but spoke often with Government, and had advisory powers.
Carmona is said to have told the delegation that he had no position on the highway issue but
would likely offer one in September. President Carmona did not say whether he has ever discussed the issue with Persad-Bissessar or any minister.
Members of the HRM have returned to the sidewalk outside the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, where they have been involved in a silent protest since last week Monday.
The HRM wants government to abide by the findings of the HRC's report.
THE Highway Re-Route Movement (HRM), led by activist Dr Wayne Kublalsingh, will today take its concerns over the Debe to Mon Desir highway extension to President Anthony Carmona.
Kublalsingh disclosed yesterday that following several requests in March soon after Carmona’s appointment to office, the group was this week informed that he is willing to entertain them.
A three-member delegation from the Movement will be seen today by Carmona at his office at President’s House.
Speaking yesterday outside the Office of the Prime Minister in St Clair, where he has resumed protest but has so far desisted from another hunger strike, Kublalsingh said the HRM was looking to raise with Carmona its hurt and confusion over what they are saying is a broken promise by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar to desist from building that segment of the highway.
The HRM is asking that the Debe to Mon Desir section of the Solomon Hochoy Highway extension to Point Fortin be re-routed to avoid the displacement of over 200 families.
Last November into December, Kublalsingh fasted without food and water for 21 days outside the PM’s office as he sought to bring the HRM’s concerns to the national community.
During that time they did not receive a face-to-face with the PM but in early December as Kublalsingh brought his fast to a close after being warned by his doctor that he was tempting death, Persad-Bissessar agreed to the formation of the Highway Review Committee (HRC) for an independent assessment of the mega-project.
The HRC was headed by Dr James Armstrong and counted among its members NGOs, civic groups, unions and the Joint Consultative Council (JCC).
The HRM is now claiming that Persad-Bissessar has gone back on her word by saying recently that she did not know whether she, or the collective State, will abide by the HRC’s report, among the recommendations of which is that the contentious segment be held up until more social, economic and environmental impact assessments are completed.
The HRM yesterday and this week promised to intensify protest action, following a disastrous first meeting with the PM last Thursday at the Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s, where the HRM said she was asked whether she will abide by the report and responded that she did not know.
This claim that Persad-Bissessar is refusing to stand by her word is one of the issues the HRM intends to raise with Carmona tomorrow.
The Prime Minister has denied that she gave her word.
Speaking yesterday, some residents said they stood to lose properties that have been in their families for generations and they hope that Carmona, who they believe to be “a bright, young man of the people”, will see their point of view.
Yesterday’s protest was also larger than it has been in the past week, since Kublalsingh re-started the campaign last Monday, though the HRM has promised that the numbers are coming.
On Monday, Kublalsingh was warned by police that the group did not have a permit to gather or protest in numbers and that he would be held liable for any illegal action taken by the people.
While a few stern warnings were issued yesterday by police officers as the group sometimes spilled into the roadway, no arrests were made.
Kublalsingh yesterday maintained his stance that he will not desist from protest action until a definitive answer is given by the PM and he has also continued to state that his is a one-man protest and he cannot control the actions of any person or people wishing to come out and support him.
Also speaking at the protest site yesterday was head of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ), David Abdulah, a former member of the coalition People’s Partnership.
Abdulah said the MSJ has been a consistent supporter of the HRM and will continue to be so.
Regarding the Movement’s claim that Persad-Bissessar has not kept her word, Abdulah said, “The People’s Partnership has reneged on many of the promises in its manifesto, so this does not surprise me. This is one of the reasons we walked out in the first place.”
It was a day of strange occurrences around the protest, however, with more confusion taking place outside the group than in it.
Around midday, at least one large and two small firetrucks were called in to the Ministry of Education next door, where a small fire had broken out inside the building.
The trucks caused traffic and confusion for about 20 minutes but the fire was extinguished quickly.
Just about half an hour later, at the corner of Gray Street and Sweet Briar Road, a collision saw one motorist lose his bumper. No one was hurt in the mishap.
—See Page 5